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How to Rekindle Romance in a Long-Term Relationship

how-to-rekindle-romance-long-term-relationship

Photo by Cathal Mac an Bheatha on Unsplash

According to a survey made by the AARP, only 28% of married couples have sex several times a month. The other part of the survey says that 8% have sex only once a month. And… a whopping 33% have very rarely, or never! And this also goes for couples who report that they are happy in their long-term relationships. Another survey made by the Cosmopolitan magazine tries to throw a glimpse into the love lives of millennials (ages 20 to 29). The conclusion? Well, turns out that 52% wish they had more sex.  The question of how to rekindle romance in a long-term relationship clearly has to do with sex. But, the frequency of sex is definitely not the only piece of the puzzle.

Why is this the case, you might ask yourself? Especially if you happen to have a stable, loving relationship with your partner or significant other? Shouldn’t desire come naturally to such a relationship when both partners want to be intimate with each other?

Truth is, a loving relationship doesn’t always imply a satisfactory love life. You can love each other beyond the moon, but you can still go through a particularly rough dry spell. 

Here’s my experience:

I myself used to think that romanticism and intimacy make up the perfect recipe for a healthy and regular love life. I thought they alone are enough to keep the flame of desire burning forever. 

But, the data says otherwise. Intimacy and stability in a relationship don’t always spell frequent sex – in fact, it might be quite the opposite.

I’ve been battling with this conundrum for the longest while. The foundation of marriage is intimacy, and yet we see time and time again that intimacy is not enough. 

So, I can safely say that I used to be part of the 33% club. And, naturally, I have asked myself the following questions quite a few times: 

  • How do I reintroduce desire in my relationship?
  • How do you reignite the spark?
  • Can desire be rekindled?

Or, to be honest, the most crucial one, albeit a tad more informal:

  • How the hell do I get my wife to have sex with me?

Fortunately, I found my answers and sex with my wife has never been better than it is now! This is why in this article today, I’ve decided to share what I’ve learned over the years and, hopefully, try to answer this question: how can men have more sex with their wives and long-term partners? 

But to do that, we first have to see why the spark gets snuffed out in the first place.

Getting to the Root of the Problem – What Dwindles Desire? 

One of the biggest turning points in my understanding of desire, intimacy, and marriage, and their intricate connection was this brilliant TED talk by Eshter Perel.

Eshter Perel is a Belgian psychotherapist, author, and speaker who I had no idea existed until my own therapist recommended her to me after we spoke about the sex life in my marriage. I found the TED talk, devoured it in one sitting, and I have to say it left a profound impression on me. 

One of the main concerns of Perel is precisely the question of how to rekindle romance in a long-term relationship.

Esther Perel defines the crisis of desire as a crisis of imagination. What she’s basically saying is that being in love with somebody and caring for them immensely doesn’t necessarily mean you’re bound to have great sex. The mystery of eroticism lies precisely in this intricate relationship between love and desire. 

A Lesson From Eshter Perel

The biggest eye-opening moment I experienced listening to Eshter Perel’s TED talk was when she refuted the idea that intimacy and desire are one and the same.

This was one of the questions that had me confused for the longest time: my wife and I love each other. We have a good marriage and a great partnership. So why is my sex life not what it used to be?

Well, it turns out, the answer is simple: the security and intimacy that we crave in marriage can actually be the very thing that kills our desire. 

The Need for Security vs. The Need for Adventure 

In marriage, we seek to fulfill what Perel calls “the need for security…predictability… safety… dependability… reliability… permanence”. 

All of these needs have one thing in common, and that is the feeling of being at home. It’s something that we want our significant other to provide at all times. In fact, the very institution of marriage is based around these things – providing us with emotional and financial security.

However, there is another niche of needs that both partners often tend to sweep under the rug for different reasons. A lot of these needs may seem contrary to the ones mentioned above. And that is often the reason why they’re neglected or not considered in long-term relationships. 

These are the needs for novelty and adventure. They carry with themselves the allure of mystery and the desire to seek the unknown. They wake up inside of you the feelings of risk and danger, the feeling of surprise, the thrill of the unexpected. These needs remind you that you’re a dormant volcano.

“In love, we want to have, we want to know the beloved. We want to minimize the distance. We want to contract that gap. We want to neutralize the tensions. We want closeness. 

[…]

In desire, we want an Other, somebody on the other side that we can go visit, that we can go spend some time with, that we can go see what goes on in their red-light district.”

The thing is, although this notion that the level of intimacy people experience in marriage can actually stifle desire is counterintuitive, when we think about it, it’s not really surprising, or illogical. 

Marriage nowadays vs. marriage in the past

Marriage as an institution (initially) was never about fulfilling sexual needs; that came afterwards. For the longest time, marriage was merely about establishing an economic unit, and the sex was mainly reserved for procreation. This idea that our partner should be our “everything”, is a fairly modern idea. Since times immemorial, people have found economic security in marriages, but they have fulfilled their desire for sexual adventures and freedom outside of them. 

However, now that we have the luxury of wanting our partners to be our “best friend and […] trusted confidant and […] passionate lover to boot….” as Perel says, how do we marry these seemingly opposing needs (pun intended) – how can we have both security and adventure with one person, despite life getting in the way?

And that brings me precisely to my point – we’re all, in fact, dormant volcanoes when we’ve hit the dry spell. We just need to figure out how the heck do we shake the foot of the mountain and bring that molten core to the surface. 

After all, the great poet Federico Garcia Lorca didn’t say in vain that “to burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves.”

Be Vary of the Factors Leading You To “Bed Death”

Although this was the most eye-opening realization for me personally, the discussion doesn’t end there – there’s a whole lineup of factors that contribute to what people in this day and age like to playfully call “bed death”: 

  • Stress;
  • Having children;
  • The gender dynamics present in marriage and long-term relationships;
  • Getting too comfortable with each other; 
  • Being too attached to your partner or too needy.

Yes, this is by no means an exhaustive list. And yes, all of these are whole other topics on their own. But my point here is the following: each and every one of these factors is inherently tied to the very idea of marriage and long-term partnerships. From the very beginning you say “I do,” that in itself means you will share each and every one of these experiences with your partner. You’re in it for life, right? 

That means that your marriage by default forces you into experiencing the deepest levels of intimacy with your significant other – getting through sickness, through stress, through financial troubles, and all of these moonlight as desire killers. 

Stress

Stress is known to put an immense burden on romantic relationships. Stressful situations from your workplace or your family (siblings, parents) can easily spill into your marriage, and if they do, they most certainly will spill into your sex life as well. 

The trick here is to recognize this on time and to prevent it from happening, or at least to mitigate its effects. You can do this in many ways. Basically, you’ll need to find a successful way to de-stress on a regular basis, either by exercising, meditating, taking time out to do what you really like (hobbies, interests, etc.), talking to a therapist or psychologist, whatever works! 

And if you want to get deeper into it, you can check out another article of mine that deals specifically with the subject of sex and stress. 

Having children

Sure, it’s a dream of many couples to have a full house of lovely little kiddos running around and playing all day. But all of those who do have kids know it’s not fun all the time. Having children takes away a lot of the attention and energy you would otherwise give to your partner. You’ll find that most or all of your conversations will be centered around your kids. 

But, this doesn’t mean that all couples who have kids have long said goodbye to having sex. 

All it takes is some organization, communication, and the willingness to get back on track. So, you can try and do the following:

  • Set aside time for yourselves and for your lovemaking sessions. Do fun and exciting stuff together, such as booking a weekend getaway, or getting a hotel room in your city. 
  • Be more conscious of the types of conversations you’re having. Once you realize you’re repeating yourselves or all you do is talk about the kids, make a conscious effort to redirect the conversation to something that’s meaningful for either or both of you, and that doesn’t involve the kids. This can be a hobby, a side interest, something exciting about your job, or something that you’ve recently found out. It can be a book, a movie, a theater play, something you always wanted to share with your partner but never had the chance to or were somehow apprehensive about it. Basically, whatever it is that gets your juices flowing!
  • Talk to a therapist if you find it extremely difficult to deal with this only by yourselves. There are plenty of professionals out there that can make significant improvements when it comes to the ways you communicate to your partner as well as questions concerning sex. 

Gender dynamics 

Heterosexual marriages or partnerships have proven themselves as rather tricky when it comes to gender dynamics. We’re still in the grips of the patriarchal family and relationship model, that’s clear. So for some couples, especially older (or more traditional) ones, who’ve been raised with different systems and values in mind, it’s still hard to escape and reverse the patriarchal gender roles and dynamics. 

But clinging to them can have negative consequences on your marriage and your sex life as well. It’s important to keep things balanced in your household when it comes to responsibilities and expectations. I’m sure your wife or partner would find you way sexier if you helped around the house more and accepted your fair share of domestic responsibilities. 

Getting too comfortable with each other 

“The more connected I became, the more responsible I felt, the less I was able to let go in your presence. “, says Perel in her talk.

This is something I mentioned earlier in the article, when the need for security and feeling at home goes too far and neglects the need for novelty and erotic adventure. 

Desire needs mystery, and every relationship should always leave something to the imagination. That’s why it’s so important to constantly work on yourself, be curious, interested in new stuff, and try to bring that into the bedroom as well. Surprise your partner with a move she hasn’t seen before, a secret capability she hasn’t known about, or a new suggestion/activity you can try out together.

Being too attached to your partner or too needy

Sure, it’s nice to have someone to rely on in tough times, and to share the beauty of life in good times, but being needy or too attached to your partner can put a real strain on the relationship. Remember what I said about leaving it to the imagination? Your partner doesn’t need to know all your sides and needs. There are other ways and people to fulfill them. 

If your partner is the one being like this, then you should definitely communicate it with them that you need some space. You can also try and see a couple’s therapist if you can’t do it on your own.  

How to Rekindle Romance in a Long-Term Relationship

When we talk about desire and needs, we have to recognize their plurality, their versatility, their multitude. We have to acknowledge the paradoxical existence of two contrary desires at the same time in the same person. That’s also the dichotomy of security and adventure central to the article you’re reading right now. 

A lot of the time couples get too comfortable in their long-term relationships, focusing on only one part of their needs – the need for security. A lot of people connect the verb ‘playing’ with ‘playing it safe’. But playing doesn’t always mean playing it safe… you can also play with fire, can’t you? If you dare to dare, step out of your comfort zone. 

Stepping out of the comfort zone can be scary for some, and that’s completely understandable. You fear that you might offend your partner if you try to tread on untrodden ground. Or, you’re afraid they might think you’re being weird by showing a side they haven’t seen before. This need for adventure, for novelty, for mystery, is something most of us have. Unfortunately, not all are so easily willing to get in touch with it. 

It’s the reconciliation of these seemingly contradictory needs for security and adventure that should be at the center of a healthy long-term sexually-fulfilling relationship. That’s the spark that will rekindle the dormant desire lurking in all of us. But how do we get there? 

How to Keep Desire Alive? 

When I think about desire I always think about how people are moved and driven by so many different things and situations. 

What do people want from their partners? 

Of course, the answers are many, far too many to write every one of them here. But if you look hard enough, you’ll see a pattern emerging. Things start to repeat themselves. 

Explore Yourself and Figure Out What You Want from Sex

Try to look at sex not just as an activity, but as a place that you both go to, as Esther Perel says. It’s important to know yourself before you set out pleasing others, right? To be in touch with your desires and your body, and know what you want from the sexual act. 

Which is why you can ask yourself the following questions: 

  1. Which are the physical parts of myself that I want to focus on most during sex? 
  2. What is it that really turns me on about my wife/partner?
  3. Do I want to feel more spiritually connected with my partner and experience lovemaking as a more spiritual act? 
  4. Or do I want to feel utterly irresponsible, forget about all the burdens and responsibilities I face from one day to the next and surrender to kinkier, more physically-demanding sex play?
  5. Do I want to explore all or most of my fetishes, fantasies, both from the past and the present? Or alternatively – which are the fantasies and fetishes I currently want to explore with my wife/partner?

All of these are relevant questions and it’s good to be clear about them in your head, but it’s also essential to communicate them with your partner. 

Emotionally (Re)Connect With Your Partner

I know this might sound paradoxical to you, regarding what I said earlier in the article, but bear with me, please.

In long-term relationships, it’s quite normal that you sometimes feel emotionally disconnected from your partner. It might be because both of you have been through a particularly hard period which has left you exhausted, or you’ve both changed throughout the years more than you want to acknowledge. But whatever it is, connecting to your partner emotionally is another key element in maintaining a long-term relationship that includes a healthy sex life. 

This, however, doesn’t mean that you need to search for the feeling of security when it comes to emotional reconnection. It means being at ease with your partner, being able to share both the easy and hard stuff, being able to communicate your desires and fantasies, to talk about your boundaries and your expectations from one another. It means feeling comfortable to experiment, to bring out the new in your relationship.

Introduce Novelty Into Your Sex Life

Novelty doesn’t’ only mean you bring toys and other external items into your sex life pro-forma. It also means a willingness to experiment, to try out something new, to look with new eyes. 

Stuff like sex toys and CBD oil are just instruments in this endeavor, they’re not the end goal. They’re a good place to start, though, which is why I want to show you next some of the instruments, activities, and ways you can introduce novelty into your love life. 

Sex toys 

Toys are fun for everyone. Sex toys are fun for adults. But adults are often ashamed or apprehensive when it comes to introducing sex toys. Stats, however, show that 86.2% of couples hit the jackpot in the bedroom once they tried them.   

You can experiment with various types of sex toys: vibrators, dildos, cock rings, nipple and clit clamps, you name it! 

When you want to do the talk with your wife or partner about introducing sex toys into your sex life, you can begin by saying that it’s perfectly normal for people to do this and that there’s nothing to be ashamed of. If your partner is reluctant at the first conversation, don’t give up just yet. Although you should always respect their boundaries. 

Some men might also fear being replaced by the sex toy, but that’s far from likely or possible. Quite the contrary, in fact – it’s only going to make things more exciting. Think of it as another helping hand without having to deal with all the emotional complications that might arise out of a threesome or a polyamorous relationship (although that’s also another thing to consider if you have the inclination and if you’re up for the challenge!)

CBD oil 

CBD oil (or Cannabidiol) is a type of oil that comes from cannabis, and it contains chemicals which can be found naturally in the marijuana plant. 

This type of oil is relatively new on the market. A particularly interesting CBD oil-infused product is the CBD lube. 

If you want to introduce a bit of novelty in your life, and you decided to be in the form of a lube, then I definitely suggest you try fooling around with a CBD-infused lube, such as Spark, for example. Heck, for all you know, it might even be a game-changer!

BDSM play 

Still a taboo in some relationships, BDSM play allows you to take a walk on the wild side. If you want to take a significant step out of your sexual comfort zone, then I suggest you try out a little kinkiness. 

You don’t need to start with the truly rough stuff in the beginning if that’s not really your cup of tea. But what you should consider is giving BDSM a go, especially if you’re facing a particularly long dry spell. 

If you’re afraid of what your partner is going to say about all this, then try to introduce the topic slowly. If they initially agree, start with small BDSM acts in the bedroom once you both get yourselves in the mood. 

Don’t Ask Your Partner to Be Your Everything

In short, putting too many expectations on your partner is very constraining. Trying to make them fulfill every social role you had before being committed to them is a major desire killer. It’s just too much pressure and it’s working against your overall well-being as well. 

Since marriage transformed throughout time, this also impacted the needs of both parties. Partners now face a bigger challenge to be their significant other’s “everything”. This is bound to make them feel inadequate at some point since nobody can be somebody’s everything. 

What can you do about it?

  • Be realistic and be clear about the needs you want your partner to fulfill in your life. This will then allow both of you to see which of them they actually can fulfill. It will leave you with plenty more space and energy to focus on the needs both of you have in the bedroom. 
  • Once you locate which of the needs they can’t really fulfill, you can seek to fulfill them elsewhere. You can try to locate other people and outlets in your life that might potentially fill out the multiple social roles you expect your partner to play in your relationship.  
  • If your partner is the one doing this to you, talk it over and be clear about how you feel about it all. 

Final Thoughts 

How to rekindle romance in a long-term relationship? Basically, it requires getting back to the roots of the erotic. 

Sexuality and sex are types of intelligence. And if we honor them this way, we’ll see how they require a language of their own. This is the language of imagination. It’s a language that helps you articulate your needs for playfulness, novelty, curiosity, and mystery. These needs are always there, regardless of whether you’re completely conscious of them or not. 

They’re basically the secret ingredient in the concoction that is desire. The formula of this concoction, however, especially in long-term relationships, is the balancing act between the need for security and the need for adventure. 

Imagination is a powerful tool that we people have. It gives us the possibility to see things with a fresh eye, to change our perception, sometimes radically. Imagination helps us look at and articulate the erotic as a way to fight the fear of an ending. It helps us in our fight against stasis and death, including the death of desire. And this is definitely well worth fighting for. 

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